Story by Lauren Sable Freiman | Aug 28, 2017
Photography by Keith Borgmeyer

Volunteer Frank Enloe dedicates his time to helping those who help others.

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Frank Enloe’s shift at St. Mary’s Hospital begins on Mondays at 11 a.m. when he arrives in the emergency department. As a volunteer patient ambassador, he mans the entrance, watching for anyone who might need his help. If an incoming patient needs a wheelchair, he wheels one outside, then wheels the patient back inside to be registered. Sometimes, he takes patients to a triage room, where he takes their blood pressure, weighs them, and completes other preliminary tasks before a nurse arrives to take over. He also takes on odd jobs around the department: getting warm blankets for those who are cold in the waiting area, restocking supplies, transporting patients to other parts of the hospital.

enloe-towelsFor the former Army medic, these are simple things. It’s as simple as putting on a blood pressure cuff, pressing a button, and recording the reading, or helping people on and off the scale, but it’s much appreciated by the busy nurses and staff. He’s become a jack of all trades.

Every Monday, before his shift, Enloe checks in with First Baptist Church to see if anyone is in the hospital.

“I like to visit people in the hospital and help them to feel better,” Enloe says. “If anyone from my church is in the hospital, I make it a point to visit them while I’m there.”

When his shift ends at 3 p.m., he leaves the hospital to head home and prepare for the next day’s volunteer work as a greeter over at JCMG. His Tuesday shift begins bright and early at 7:45 a.m. By 8 a.m., Enloe has gathered wheelchairs from throughout the building and returned them to the entrance to be grabbed for arriving patients. He spends the next five hours greeting patients and directing them to their various appointments and wishing them a nice day when they leave. He helps with the mail and even takes wheelchairs out to the parking lot to help patients inside.

“They would like for me to work more than one day a week, but it gets to be long,” says Enloe, who turns 86 on September 8. “You just don’t have the stamina you had when you were young. I’m on my feet a lot at both those places and there is a lot of activity involved in pushing people in wheelchairs and taking them out to their cars. It’s not all sitting around and looking at the four walls.”

The itch to not sit around looking at the walls was Enloe’s motivation to begin a new career as a volunteer in January 2014. When he lost his wife, Mary Dee, in October 2013 after 62 1/2 years of marriage, his sister suggested that volunteer work might be a rewarding way to spend some time.

“I needed something to do instead of sitting in the house, twiddling my thumbs,” Enloe says. “My sister had been volunteering at St. Mary’s and suggested I contact them.”

After a 53-year career in highway engineering, Enloe says he is thankful for the opportunity to give back and make a difference for people who might need a bright spot in their day.

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“I get the personal satisfaction of knowing I helped to brighten their day a little,” Enloe says. “Some people come in pretty down and dejected, and I try to be a positive influence or make them smile or laugh. I think it’s important to me to be able to give back to people for all the years I received help from them. I have a caring spirit, and I feel like the Lord wants me to do something to benefit other people. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

On his days off from St. Mary’s and JCMG, Enloe goes about daily errands like grocery shopping and laundry, and he’s an occasional Friday volunteer at River City Habitat for Humanity’s Re-Store. He also spends time with his four kids, eight grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren. His daughter, Carol Craighead, and sons Keith and Ken live locally, while his son Kelly lives in Springfield. 

Enloe says he’s also enjoyed the ability to travel. Last Christmas, he gifted his four children and their spouses a Rhine River riverboat cruise, which he’ll enjoy with them in October.

“I told them I’m spending their inheritance, but I might as well enjoy it with them,” Enloe says. “I just enjoy life, and I’m thankful for the years I’ve had and for the health I have, which is as good as you can expect for an 86-year-old. I’ve had a little heart problem, I’ve had a little cancer, but I’ve survived and am thankful I can do what I can do.”

Enloe says the nurses and staff at St. Mary’s and JCMG treat him like a king, including him in staff events and expressing appreciation for all the help he provides. He says that adding additional days or time to his volunteer schedule is not outside the realm of possibility, and he plans to remain an active volunteer for as long as possible.

“I’ll just keep on as long as I’m healthy,” he says. “I love it because I like people, I enjoy the interactions with the people I come in contact with, and I have a personality that fits with that type of thing. I have a good time at it.”

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